UNICEF Viet Nam Representative Youssouf Abdel-Jelil interacted with Thang during his visit to Ninh Thuan Inclusive Education Centre in April 2016
Similar to Nguyen, Thang showed symptoms of autism since he was one year old. However, he had to wait for six years to get the first treatment because there was no service for children with autism or with disabilities that his family could access to. Since the new centre was set up, his father has been taking him there twice a week. In this center, he has undergone various interventions and received special therapy which helped expand his span of attention, improve his communication skills and express his thoughts and feelings. “Since he started treatment quite late, it took longer time to see some progress”, says Doan Thi Thanh Thuy, a care-taker from the centre.
It took Ho Tuong Vi, a 14-years-old girl, much longer time to get support to overcome her disability. Born with hearing impairment, Vi was not enrolled in primary school formally because teachers did not have necessary skills to accommodate and teach children with special needs. However, she was allowed to sit with her younger sister in the classroom at the primary school. Although she enjoyed the company of her sister and her classmates, she hardly had any idea of what they were talking about. Now her younger sister is accompanying her twice a week to the new centre to learn sign language. “I want to learn together with her so we can communicate better”, says her sister
Advocating for Policies on Inclusive Education
Lack of professional identification of disabilities, appropriate interventions and support in the early years have hindered the chances of children with disabilities to access to education in mainstream schools. Nearly 70 per cent of primary school-age children with disabilities in Viet Nam do not attend school. Most pre-primary, primary and lower secondary schools do not have appropriate facilities for children with disabilities. Teachers have not been trained to ensure inclusive teaching environment and they do not have adequate skills to identify and provide necessary interventions to address the needs of children with disabilities.
The Inclusive Education Resource Centre (IERC) is proven effective in preparing children with disabilities to integrate regular school with all other children. It provides screening and early interventions for children with disabilities as well as guidance and orientation for parents and teachers. UNICEF has been partnering closely with the national partners, both at the central and provincial levels, to promote the establishment of IERCs such as the one in Ninh Thuan Province. UNICEF has also pursued research with different academia to build strong knowledge to inform the development of policies for the welfare of children with disabilities in particular. In 2014, the Government regulated the establishment of IERCs and recently in June 2016, an inter-ministerial circular was issued recognizing the role of the staff supporting education for persons with disabilities. Although the decision of establishing an IERC is decentralized to the provincial level, to date only 14 IERCs have been set up throughout the country, which is far below meeting the needs of the 1.3 million children with disabilities in Viet Nam.
IERC in Ninh Thuan – from policy to practice
guyen, Thang and Vi are among the first children benefitting from the services of the newly established IERC in Ninh Thuan, one of the poorest provinces in Viet Nam, situated in the south central coast region. Since the start of its operations in December 2015, the centre provides various services for children with disabilities such as identification, early intervention, counselling to parents, training of teachers and awareness raising in the community. Built on a premise of over 20,000m2 and staffed with 15 teaching and non-teaching employees funded through a provincial budget, the centre serves children with disabilities in Ninh Thuan and its neighboring provinces.
|Doan Thi Thanh Thuy, teacher of Ninh Thuan IERC showed the teaching aids that teachers made themselves as part of the training supported by UNICEF|
“Ninh Thuan IERC provides a good example of delivering on national commitments and policies at the provincial level to benefit of children with disabilities. At the national level, UNICEF is providing support to policy development, legal reform, and improving social services. UNICEF continues contribute to capacity building, as well as adapted and sustainable implementation of national policies at the provincial level. Ninh Thuan’s IERC has the potential to serve as a model to be replicated in other provinces”, says Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Viet Nam Representative.
“Quality education is a right for every child. It can only be achieved when each and every child, including those with disabilities, is in school receiving inclusive quality education that provides the learning required for life. UNICEF will continue to support Viet Nam to ensure that all children can receive holistic support that they need to promote their development and self-fulfillment with dignity”, he continues.